This week’s photo comes to from Broadmeadow. The grand building in the background was the Broadway Hotel. It opened in 1924 and was severely damaged in the 1989 earthquake and demolished soon after.
The building in this month’s photo, standing starkly before the bare hills of Waratah, is not an elegant home or stylish church. It is a garbage incinerator designed by Walter Burley Griffin, more famously known as the architect of Canberra. After finishing his work on Canberra, Griffin set up an architectural practice with Eric Milton Nichols. In 1929, they began a long running collaboration with the Reverberatory Incinerator and Engineering Company to design stylish buildings to house incinerators, the new fashion in garbage disposal.
Previously, getting rid of rubbish had been a very ad hoc affair. In Newcastle suburbs people would bury or burn it in their backyard, throw it in colliery pitfalls, or dump it in swampy low-lying areas to reclaim land for parks. These dumps were extremely dissatisfactory, being breeding grounds for flies, mosquitos and rats. With a lack of regional consensus on what should be done, in 1930 Waratah Council commissioned an incinerator to be built at the upper end of High St. At the official opening on 1 Aug 1931 the manufacturer boldly enthused that “Everything was totally destroyed without odour and without fumes of any description.”
But the promise of making garbage magically disappear without a puff of smoke proved to be wildly optimistic. Complaints began almost immediately, and escalated as the plant got older and more rubbish was burned. Towards the end of its few years of operations the Waratah incinerator was described as “belching forth clouds of greasy smoke, the stench of which is practically unbearable.” The incinerator ceased regular operation in June 1940, and was then only occasionally fired up as a backup to other city facilities. Around 1943 it closed permanently and became a target of vandals. In 1950 Newcastle Council ordered the building to be demolished and the rubble to be used for extending the sea wall at North Stockton.
Waratah’s incinerator is gone, but a handful of Burley Griffin’s incinerator buildings remain standing in the eastern states, now serving as theatres, cafes, and art galleries.
The article above was first published in the June 2020 edition of The Local.
The Official Opening of the Waratah incinerator took place on 1 August 1931, and reported in the paper on 3 August 1931. The glowing praises of the incinerator by various people look rather naive in retrospect, knowing that the plant only operated for a dozen years.
A dream of Waratah aldermen of the destruction of garbage by fire has been brought to fruition by the formal opening on Saturday of the reverberatory furnace garbage incinerator. Set on a high hill, overlooking the suburb, the building is of artistic design, and with the plant cost approximately £5000. It can dispose of a cubic yard of garbage at a cost of 1/1.09d, reducing wet slimy mush to a clean clinker in a few moments.
Ald W H Tripet, Mayor of Waratah described former garbage disposal practices …
They could not deny the fact that in the past the garbage had served a very useful purpose in the filling of swamp and low-lying lands, which in their original state, were next to, if not quite, useless and which to-day comprised very fine park lands and playing areas.
Mr. N. Leonard Kanevsky, Managing Director of the Reverberatory Incinerator and Engineering Company Proprietary, Ltd, described the operation of the furnace …
Unseen by those present the superheated refuse was presently consumed in the heat of an intense fire, and in a short time, the evil smelling stuff which had dropped into the shute was drawn away in a heap of clean clinker. Everything was totally destroyed without odor and without fumes of any description.
Mr. W. B. Griffin, the Architect, declared …
that the time would come when beauty and utility in service would be combined.
Mr. A. G. Goninan …
… congratulated Ald. Griffiths as the man who prepared the way for the incinerator, and the Mayor and aldermen of Waratah on its materialisation. When Mr. Kanevsky first approached him regarding the work on the incinerator, he made investigations, and found that the machine was a good one. The whole of the metal was produced in the district, and provided work for local men. He could see nothing wrong with the incinerator – nothing, as a fact, could go wrong with it.
parry St incinerator, Newcastle
After Waratah Council opened their incinerator in 1931, Newcastle Council decided to also build an incinerator also. Their incinerator was much larger, designed to initially handle 40 cubic yards of garbage in an 8 hour shift, but with space to install a second unit to double the processing capacity. Built at a cost of £20,000 at the corner of Parry St and Ravenshaw St opposite the sports grounds, the incinerator was opened in August 1938.
The Newcastle incinerator building wasn’t designed by Walter Burley Griffin, but by F. A. Scorer, Chief Architect, Greater Newcastle City Council. In spite of its industrial purpose, the building was awarded the John Sulman architectural medal for 1938. (Greg and Silvia Ray’s Photo Time Tunnel website has a photograph of the building in 1938.)
Newcastle’s experiment with garbage incineration lasted less than Waratah’s efforts. After just 9 years of service, by 1947 the furnaces of the Parry St incinerator had failed. Estimates were prepared for the repair of the plant, but council decided “the efforts would be a waste of thousands of pounds” and therefore the incinerator “must be scrapped.” In April 1947 council called for tenders for the demolition of the plant but nothing progressed, and the building sat vacant for a number of years. In 1950 the council leased the building to “Mr. W. A. Miller, proprietor of a motor-body building and repairing business, who had been looking for new premises since fire gutted part of his earlier establishment.”
I have not yet identified when the Parry St incinerator building was demolished, but an aerial photograph shows that it was still standing in 1975.
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|15 Nov 1922||"Pitfalls at the back of residences in Howe-street, Lambton, are used as a repository for rubbish. One resident who objects to the disgusting smell of rotting vegetable matter lying in these holes, describes it an "a perfect breeding place for files and mosquitoes."|
|28 May 1925||"There are more than 1000 houses in Lambton, and yet the municipality is without a garbage system. The council will not introduce one, and residents appear quite content to carry on under primitive methods. An inquiry as to how the people get on was met with the reply that the fowls eat it.Lambton people or a good many of them, bury it, either in their yards or on some handy vacant ground, others burn it. Some people, hotelkeepers and storekeepers, send it away to one of the many pitfalls, which abound in Lambton. Many Lambton residents declare that the council should institute a garbage system."|
|19 Apr 1930||"The City Council's health Inspector (Mr. O'Keefe)... considers it an absolute necessity for the public health. Incineration seemed to be the only hygienic way to dispose of garbage without creating undue nuisance, and menacing the public health.”|
|29 Apr 1930||"I have no doubt that some form of garbage incineration will be adopted in the district sooner or later," said the Government Medical Officer (Dr. Wallace) to-day. "The sooner the better, for it is the only way to get rid of flies and rats."|
|5 Nov 1930|
4 Nov 1930
|"Disgusted with the apathy of other councils in the Newcastle district towards the establishment of garbage destructors, Waratah Council definitely decided last night lo erect its own plant at a cost of £5000."|
|13 May 1931||"Waratah Council will be the first in the Newcastle district to be provided with a modern incinerator. Building operations are progressing rapidly. The steel work, which has been manufactured by Messrs. A. Goninan and Company, of Broadmeadow, has already been assembled on the site, and the fire brickwork is being laid by expert hands."|
|4 Jul 1931||"Work on the furnace construction of Waratah Council's garbage incinerator is practically completed ... the flue stack has been taken up to its full height of 50 feet. It is anticipated that the plant will be ready to incinerate the municipal ity's garbage by the end of the month."|
|1 Aug 1931||"One furnace unit is provided, with room in the building, however, for a duplicate unit."|
|1 Aug 1931|
1 Aug 1931
|Official opening of the Waratah incinerator. [Report in The Newcastle Sun.]|
|3 Aug 1931|
1 Aug 1931
|Official opening of the Waratah incinerator. [Report in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate]|
|20 Dec 1933||"Waratah Council last night decided to install a telephone at its incinerator at a cost of £5 2s 6d a year."|
|2 May 1934||Residents complain of odours coming from the Waratah incinerator.|
|8 Oct 1934||Repairs needed to incinerator … "cracks in the reverberating arch and chips out of crown of furnace, and other matters needing attention."|
|11 Oct 1937||"Owing to the increase in population in Waratah Municipality during the past few years, the council's incinerator has been unable to cope with the stream of garbage, and a second unit has to be built."|
|11 Aug 1938||"Newcastle's £20,000 incinerator will be put into use next week. "|
|13 Aug 1938||"The new city incinerator, built at a cost of approximately £20,000, should be in full operation within a fortnight. The furnace is burning this week for the first time, with a small coke fire, which in being increased gradually each day to dry out the fireclay cementing the special firebricks which line the in ternal walls of the burning unit and the 117-feet chimney stack. Eventually the burning unit will be brought to a temperature of 1700 degrees, at which it operates."|
|24 Jan 1940||The Newcastle Incinerator Building, Parry Street, Newcastle. AWARDED THE SIR JOHN SULMAN MEDAL FOR 1938.|
|5 Jun 1941||"Now that the Waratah incinerator had been closed temporarily, and all garbage was burnt at Parry-street, essential repairs could be carried out at Waratah incinerator so that it would be ready for full service in the event of the service at Parry-street failing at any time. An amount of £233 was voted for repairs. The City Engineer was instructed to make an estimate of the cost of erecting a new chimney stack."|
|17 Nov 1941||"Waratah incinerator has for weeks belched forth clouds of greasy smoke, the stench of which is practically unbearable. On recent days, the incinerator has been unable to cope with the quantity of garbage, and heaps of refuse were piled in front of the plant, exposed to hordes of flies. At the rear, the rat-infested dump is an ideal place for an outbreak of an epidemic."|
|19 Dec 1941||"… at the rubbish dump at Waratah incinerator there are rats as large and as fast as hares, and that people in the vicinity could not sleep because of odours when certain winds were blowing … residents thought that garbage of any kind could be burnt at the incinerator, with the result that around it was an increasing dump of oil drums, kerosene tins, discarded tyres and other rubbish, which provided excellent harbourage for rats."|
|9 Oct 1943||"lt is time Greater Newcastle Council did something to eliminate obnoxious fumes from the city incinerator. It is constantly giving out volumes of smoke, which at times is unbearable … the Waratah incinerator is not in use, and all the garbage is brought to the city to be burnt. "|
|19 Oct 1943||"People living in the Cook's Hill area are complaining about offensive odors and an excessive amount of smoke emanating from Greater Newcastle Council's incinerator. The wisdom of Greater Newcastle Council's closing down the incinerator at Waratah about four years ago and concentrating the disposal of garbage at the one plant in the city was doubted by another resident today."|
|6 Jan 1944||"A complaint of an obnoxious smell from the council's incinerator at Waratah was before the Health Committee … the incinerator had been out of commission for the past 12 months, and during that period no refuse of any description had been deposited there."|
|16 Mar 1944||"The disused Waratah incinerator was becoming the playground of children and the rendezvous of undesirables. Children are shying stones at the incinerator. Vandals are active."|
|5 Apr 1944||"The salvage drive was blamed by Ald. Colman last night for the smoke nuisance at Newcastle incinerator. Asked if he considered it advisable to reopen Waratah incinerator, the Chairman (Ald. Dunkley) said a second incinerator would naturally add to overhead costs. He expressed the view that the council's' policy of burning all its garbage was wrong. The burial of garbage enabled low lying areas to be filled in and parks to be erected at a reasonable cost."|
|23 Aug 1944||Waratah and Parry St incinerators subject to vandalism.|
|6 Apr 1945||"The Greater Newcastle Council has decided to make an 'experiment" in the disposal of garbage by burial … it has sanctioned a change in procedure, which will involve burning about half the rubbish and burying the remainder … the Waratah incinerator has been closed since 1940, and the destructor at Newcastle has been worked two shifts."|
|21 May 1946||"The Greater Newcastle Council Garbage Committee decided last night to recommend to the council that it negotiate for sites for the burial of garbage at Wallsend, Lambton, and Adamstown ... the Waratah incinerator was shut down in June, 1940, on the advice of the then mechanical engineer."|
|18 Mar 1947||"FURNACE COLLAPSES: INCINERATOR OUT. WHEN bricks and ironwork in the furnace collapsed, the Parry-street incinerator went out of action yesterday and was abandoned."|
|2 Apr 1947||"At last night's council committee meeting a motion by the Mayor favoring calling of tenders for demolition of the chimney stacks at the Newcastle and Waratah incinerators, removal of the incinerator units and sale of the bricks for building purposes was approved in spite of some opposition."|
|9 Apr 1947||Tenders invited for for the purchase and removal of the following Incinerator Units: (a) Two chimney stacks. (b) Four "Giant" type upright patented reverberatory furnace units from the Parry Street and Waratah incinerators.|
|9 Mar 1949||The Works committee of Newcastle Council "decided to call tenders for the demolition of the incinerator building at Waratah … the building was in a dangerous condition."|
|3 Feb 1950||"A new job will be found for the old incinerator building at Waratah … the building would be demolished and the bricks and concrete used for extending the sea wall in the North Stockton erosion area. The incinerator had been standing for about 20 years. It had outlived its usefulness and any timber or fittings of value had already been removed."|
|4 Feb 1950||Lengthy article by Ian Healy on the history of the Parry St incinerator, and its re-incarnation as W. A. Miller's motor repair shop.|
|20 Sep 1950||"A disused incinerator stack at Waratah was dangerous. Six months ago the council had arranged for a contractor to demolish the stack, but nothing had been done."|
One thing I’m really noticing with this series of tram photo pairings is how many more trees there are in the city in 2020 compared with 1950.
Today’s post comes from Dan Rees St, Wallsend. From 1910 the tram line was extended out from this point to West Wallsend, but the extension was closed in November 1930. At the time this photo was taken (1940s) this was the tram terminus in Wallsend.
Old tram photo from University of Newcastle Living Histories.
Today’s post comes from Hobart Rd New Lambton. At this point in the road there used to be an overhead railway bridge for the rail line to the Lambton Colliery.
What’s interesting about this old photo is there is the tram line has what’s known as a “gauntlet track”. The tram line was a dual track (inbound/outbound), but in order to get through the narrow gap under the rail bridge the two tracks, while not connecting, interleave with each other. To avoid collisions, tram drivers had to collect a wooden staff from a signalling box at the site and only proceed through the gauntlet section if they had possession of the staff.
Old tram photo from University of Newcastle Living Histories.
In the late 19th century, William Conn was the owner of one of the finest commercial establishments in Lambton. Conn was born in Durham (UK) in 1841 and emigrated to Australia with his parents in 1864, initially working at a mine in Hamilton before opening a store in Lambton.
This month’s photo by Ralph Snowball shows William standing by the front door of his large grocery and produce store on the north west corner of Elder and Morehead streets. At his side is one of his daughters, while upstairs on the balcony is his wife Sophia with their four other children.
While the ground floor was devoted to commerce, upstairs was the family residence and a large room capable of seating 200 people. This “Temperance Hall” was used in the campaign against the social ills of alcohol. Many other community gatherings, political meetings, church anniversary teas and public lectures were held in the hall.
The grand appearance of this building with its veranda’s and colonnades was no accident, for it was designed in 1885 by a young up and coming architect Frederick B Menkens, who would go on to design some of the city’s iconic buildings such as the Mechanics Institute in Hamilton and the Earp, Gillam & Co Bond Store in Newcastle East.
Unfortunately, the prosperity of William Conn captured in Snowball’s photo evaporated in the late 1890s with a series of bad financial investments. “In one undertaking, which was regarded as safe as a bank he lost upwards of £300.” In 1900 he was forced to sell off his business and depart the district. He had been an enduring contributor to civic life, serving 7 years as an alderman on Lambton Council, including two years as Mayor.
The hall William built continued to be used for many decades, and was variously known as Bell’s Hall, Empire Hall, and Tiplady’s Hall. After residing in Wallsend for about 20 years, William Conn died on 2 June 1921 and was buried in Sandgate cemetery.
The article above was first published in the May 2020 edition of The Local.
The date of Snowball’s Photo
- Conn’s “Temperance Hall” is mentioned in Trove in a very defined and narrow window of 1886 to 1892.
- The start date of 1886 is consistent with the call for tenders for alterations and additions to the building in October 1885 and Conn asking Council for permission to store building materials on the footpath in Elder St in March 1886.
- The signs on the front of the store do not look brand new – there is a bit of weathering, so I’d suggest that the photo is a few years after 1886.
- Elder St originally had quite a deep stormwater gutter running along the north kerb of the street. This can clearly be seen in the photo’s of Conn’s store.
In January 1888 Lambton Council called for tenders for an underground culvert in Elder St, that was “to be constructed under the present gutter on the north side of the street“. This work was in progress by April 1888. After the underground culvert was constructed, aboveground the street had an ordinary sized gutter as seen in this 1901 photo. (Note that the 1890 date in the caption of this photo on the UoN site is incorrect – the correct date is 16 Nov 1901. This date is corroborated by searches in Trove that show references to “Bell’s Hall” in Lambton only from 1900, the year that Conn sold his premises and departed Lambton.)
The evidence of the gutter and culvert construction indicate that the photos of Conn’s store must be before April 1888. Combined with the evidence of the weathering of the signs, I think the most likely date for the photo is either 1887 or early 1888.
We know that Conn’s eldest child Ella was born in 1876, and his youngest child Cyril was born in 1883. If the photo was taken in 1888, Ella would have been about 12 years, and Cyril about 5 years of age, and this is consistent with the children we see in the photo.
Later history of the site
By August 1900 the site was owned by E Bell and Snowball photographed the building on 16 November 1901.
The following year “Bell’s Hall” was the venue for a banquet to celebrate the return of Albert Henry McEwan from the Boer War.
By 1905, the site hosted E D’Este Boots and Shoes, and Snowball photographed the building on 8 September 1905.
Note that the hall upstairs has now been name the “Empire Hall”.
Additional Biographical Details
On 3 November 1894, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate published and article “Our Civic Fathers. The Mayor of Lambton” in which they profiled Alderman William Conn.
Alderman William Conn, the present Mayor of the municipality of Lambton, is a native of the County of Durham, in England. He is now 53 years of age, and came to the colony with his parents in 1864. Shortly after his arrival he settled in this district, and has resided here ever since. In 1873 Alderman Conn was married, and he now has a family of five children.
(Note that the article is in error in stating that he was first elected to Hamilton Council – it was Lambton Council he was elected to in 1878.)
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|22 Jul 1871||First mention in Trove of William Conn in Lambton.|
|29 Aug 1871||William Conn unsuccessfully applies for position of Town Clerk in the first Lambton Municpal Council.|
|6 Feb 1878|
5 Feb 1878
|"Mr William Conn, storekeeper, Elder-street, " nominates for election as alderman in Lambton Council.|
|12 Feb 1878|
9 Feb 1878
|William Conn first elected to Lambton Council.|
|16 Aug 1880||"I notice that our enterprising townsman Mr. W. Conn has been making considerable additions to his business premises in Elder-street. The front of the shop has been altered and made more attraction. A new wing has been added fronting Morehead-street, and also a spacious colonnade and balcony over the footpath in this street. The store has been greatly enlarged by these improvements, and Mr. Conn's customers have now the advantage of being able to enter the promises from either of the abovenamed streets."|
|17 Oct 1885||"TENDERS are hereby invited for the erection and completion of ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS (Shopfronts, Colonades, etc.) to business premises for William Conn, Esq., Lambton.|
FREDK. B. MENKENS, Architect."
|10 Jul 1886||First mention of "Conn's Hall".|
|23 Jul 1890||The valuation of William Conn's allotment 849 on the Commonage is appealed. (Lot 849 is 22A Morehead St.)|
|6 May 1892||Last mention of "Conn's Temperance Hall".|
|19 Jul 1892||Willima Conn nominated as a candidate for a director of the Burwood Coal Company.|
|23 Nov 1892||William Conn's auctioneers' license renewed.|
|6 Jan 1893||William Conn elected chairman of the Lambton Business Men's Association. One of the activities of the association was to maintain a list of customers who were racking up too much credit amongst the retailers, and thus only accept cash transactions from them.|
|16 Dec 1893||William Conn announces that he will contest the seat of Waratah at the upcoming state election.|
|24 Jul 1894|
22 Jul 1894
|Death of Michael Conn, father of Alderman William Conn.|
|3 Nov 1894||Biographical profile of Alderman William Conn - "Our Civic Fathers. The Mayor of Lambton."|
|21 May 1896|
19 May 1896
|William Conn resigns as an alderman from Lambton Council. There is a bit of acriminony in the council meeting when Alderman Burg and Middlemas opposed a vote of thanks to Alderman Conn, with Burg stating that "the arrears had accumulated so much during Alderman Conn's terms as Mayor he thought it would have been better for the municipality if Alderman Conn had never entered the council."|
|30 Jan 1900|
29 Jan 1900
|Committee formed to organise a send-off for William Conn.|
|30 Jan 1900||Advertisement for sale "In the Assigned Estate of W. Conn, Lambton. Freehold Property, Lambton, And Small Stock of Groceries, &c., Spring Van, Horse, Harness, and Sulky, 2 Sets of Avery Scales, Counter Scales, and Sundries. Those centrally situated Business Premises, situate on the corner of Elder and Morehead streets, comprising Four Shops on the ground floor, large Public Hall and Commodious Residence on the first floor, the whole being surrounded by an imposing Colonnade 12ft wide."|
|3 Feb 1900||Advertisement for sale of Conn's properties near Warath railway station. "IN THE ESTATE OF W. CONN. By Order of the Trustees. WARATAH. 2 allotments fronting Hanbury and York streets, containing 40 perches."|
|17 Mar 1900||Farewell presentation to William Conn. "… although now under a gloom caused by losses, he was not yet despondent … There had been a time during his residence at Lambton when he could say he had full and plenty; it was not so now, unfortunately."|
|24 Mar 1900|
4 Apr 1900
|Advertisement: "Mortgagees' Sale. On Wednesday, April 4th. FREEHOLDS, LAMBTON.
ELDER & MOREHEAD ST., known as Conn's Property, comprising Four Shops on the ground floor, Public Hall and Residence on the first floor, together with outbuildings."
|13 Aug 1900||First mention of Bell's Hall in Trove: "In future the [Rosebud] lodge will hold its meetings in Mr. Bell's Hall."|
|23 Jun 1905||Last mention of "Bell's Hall" in Trove.|
|10 Dec 1909||First mention in Trove of "Mr. Tiplady's hall".|
|1 Jun 1914||Last mention of Empire Hall in Trove" "A banquet was held later in the Empire Hall ..."|
|27 Aug 1920|
25 Aug 1920
|"On the occasion of his leaving Wallsend to take up residence in Sydney, Mr. William Conn was entertained by the parishioners of St. Luke's Church of England at a valedictory social gathering in the parish hall on Wednesday evening."|
|3 Jun 1921|
2 Jun 1921
|"The death occurred yesterday of Mr. William Conn. Deceased, who was eighty years of age, had been resident of the Lambton and Wallsend districts for many years, and had been a prominent lay member of the Newcastle Anglican Synod, where he regularly took a firm stand regarding the liquor question."|
|4 Jun 1921|
2 Jun 1921
|"Mr. William Conn, who died on Thursday, lived in Lambton for many years prior to removing to Wallsend. He conducted a business in Elder-street, and also a produce store near the railway station, Waratah. He took an active part in all public matters, and was for a number of years an alderman of the council, in which he filled the Mayoral chair for the years 1894, and 1895. He was also a devoted member of the Lambton Church of England, and was the representative at the Synod on many occasions."|
|6 Jun 1921||"The late Mr. William Conn was a highly-esteemed resident of Wallsend for about 20 years. Deceased was a zealous member of Saint Luke's Church... He first served as a lay representative to synod when living in Lambton... and as such had completed 30 years' office. He was prominent in many deliberations at synod, and fearlessly gave expression to his convictions... He had also performed splendid service as a lay reader, and was a strong advocate of the temperance cause."|
|10 Nov 1937||Last mention in Trove of "Tiplady's Hall".|
It seems strange, that just one year ago I wrote an article for the Hunter Local about the ceremony planned for the opening of the Lambton Park memorial gates in 1919 never happening because the influenza pandemic at the time prevented public gatherings. Twelve months later, that which I wrote about, we now experience for ourselves.
In the article I wrote about “George Sturey”, one of the names on the gate pillars, and identified his actual name to be Salvatore Sturiali. He ws an Italian born immigrant to Lambton, who enlisted in 1916 and was killed by German artillery fire in France on 21 June 1918.
On Anzac Day this year, there was no public ceremony at the gates, but I was pleased to be able to place a wreath there today in memory of “George”.
Today’s post shows Howe St Lambton on 23 April 1949, and 20 April 2020. It’s interesting to note that the same garage is there 71 years later, minus the pitched roof.